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Swimming Swiftly With Sound Science

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas has the sharpest and most inquisitive scientific mind in aquatic sports in my opinion,” says Steven Munatones. “There is very good reason why he has worked with hundreds of Olympic medalists and thousands of elite competitive athletes in a wide variety of sports.

He makes astute and novel observations about basic movements in the water and then asks profound questions and deeply ponders about how athletes can train more effectively and swim faster.

Some of his questions cannot be answered by coaches given the current state of technology – so Dr. Sokolovas literally invents algorithms, software, databases and hardware to get his questions answered to his satisfaction.”

His lactate clearance project was one project that he started to work on and with USA Swimming over a decade ago.

What was most interesting was the difference in the data that he was able to find out. For example, the average lactate peak levels among elite competitive male swimmers varies depending on the distance.

The lactate peak in mmol/L* is as follows:

• 50m freestyle 7.2 ±1.1
• 100m freestyle 12.3 ±3.1
• 200m freestyle 11.4 ±2.0
• 400m freestyle 10.3 ±2.7
• 1500m freestyle 7.3 ±1.3
• 10 km marathon swim 3.6 ±1.4

Dr. Sokolovas also found the following information:

• lactate peak is directly correlated to the amount of fast twitch muscle fibers and anaerobic power
• because sprinters have more fast twitch muscle fibers, they have higher lactate peaks than middle distance or distance swimmers
• the highest lactate peak recorded in the lactate clearance database is 18.2 mmol/L
• Based on the database and various studies, men have slightly higher lactate peaks than women
• Most likely, the difference between men and women is due to the difference in muscle mass and amount of fast twitch muscle fibers
• Swimmers have 15-20% lower peak lactates in comparison with other land-based sports such as running and cycling
• The differences are attributed to the horizontal body position in swimming where it is easier for the heart to circulate blood and the ‘softer’ impact on the muscles
• It makes sense, therefore, that when working on land, swimmers can reach higher peak lactates compared to when they swim (see average lactate peak levels and heart pulse when a swimmer swims vs. cycles vs. runs below)

Swimming: 13.9 ±1.6 mmol/L and 181 ±12 heart rate
Cycling: 16.6 ±4.0 mmol/L and 191 ±7 heart rate
Running: 17.0 ±2.7 mmol/L and 183 ±13 heart rate

For more information about Genadijus Sokolovas, Ph.D. of Global Sport Technology and how he has worked directly with Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak, Oussama Mellouli and many Olympic open water swimmers and triathletes, visit

Dr. Genadijus is shown above pricking the earlobes of Olympic medalists soon after a race in order to determine their peak lactate levels in order to determine how long they should warm-down and be prepared for their next race.

* The international standard way of measuring blood glucose levels is in terms of a molar concentration, measured in mmol/L (millimoles per liter; or millimolar, abbreviated mM).

Copyright © 2008-2018 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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